A man is not a saint because many years after his death he was proclaimed so. And a man is not an evangelist by having traveled much as he preached. The man of today’s essay may not be proclaimed a saint for several hundred years, but he certainly did his part to promote Catholicism in the recent past.
One would not typically think of a Catholic evangelizer coming from the family firm of Manning and Anderdon, a West Indies trading company. The members of his family had estates in Antigua in which slaves were kept until abolition came to that area. His father, John Lovicount Anderdon was a partner in the firm with his father-in-law from 1816 to 1831, when the company went bankrupt, having a very steep debt. The senior AnDerdon did not do well in politics, either, having stood for Parliament in 1818, but losing. He found his niche in writing, authoring a book on angling (fishing), a biography of Bishop Ken and another on Jesus in his later years, which he wrote with an evangelical Protestant outlook.
William’s mother, Anna Maria Manning, the daughter of John’s business partner, was also the sister of the great Cardinal Manning, an Anglican cleric, who converted to Catholicism in 1850.
William, born December 26, 1816, was the oldest of a large number of children. He attended King’s College, then Balliol and then earned a scholarship to University College of Oxford where he earned a BA in 1839 and an MA in 1842. This set him up to be an Anglican cleric like his uncle. He was first vicar of Withejam and then, in 1846, the vicar of St. Margaret’s Church in Leicester.
The circumstances of his conversion to Catholicism are more obscure than his uncle’s, which happened the same year. His uncle was startled to realize that the Anglican Church was simply a man-made creation of the Parliament. He came to this conclusion after seeing a non-conforming Evangelical be admitted as a cleric. Chances are that the two, voracious writers that they were, corresponded regarding this destruction of the faith. They were both caught up in the Oxford movement.
William moved temporarily to Paris after his conversion and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1853. In the meantime, he want to Ushaw College, a Catholic seminary in Durham, to serve as a lecturer. He also spent several years as a preacher and confessor at University Church in Dublin. While there, he instigated the founding of a Franciscan convent at Drumshambo, Ireland.
In 1856, he was called back to London to work as secretary for his uncle, a man of such intelligence that he quickly became an advisor to cardinals and Pope Pius IX. the cardinal was one of the 19th century’s premier proponents of the Catholic Social Justice movement and was an influence on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on that subject. Fr. Anderdon remained in his role as secretary until he left to do missionary work in America. For two years he preached while working on his Doctor of Divinity degree, which he received in 1869. Father Anderdon returned to England and then joined the Jesuits in 1872. After that he moved to Manchester where he excelled at preaching and spiritual guidance. He also continued the writing he had begun in his youth.
And he could write! For all the people who listened to his sermons and went to him for solace and guidance, thousands more read his stories, his fables, his novels. He had the ability to reach many minds, merely because he could write in several different genre.
His works included Catholic fables, which were written in much the same way as Aesop’s fables, although they did not always hit their mark. He was somewhat more successful with his books, “Owen Evans, the Catholic Crusoe” (1862), “Afternoons with the Saints” (1863), and “In the Snow, Tales of Mt. St. Bernard” (1866). These three went through nine or ten editions and were translated into German and French.
His “Catholic Crusoe” tried to show how novels would be written if Catholics dictated form. The plot derives from and points out that the Catholic sense of God’s work is not only in the individual, but in the community. A priest was shipwrecked with a group of people in his version of Robinson Crusoe, so that a church is formed and all is shared. In Defoe’s version, Crusoe establishes a typical English colony where the Englishman is superior. Anderdon’s version gave natives equal status to share in the Mass. It is perceived as an anti-Protestant work. His island was destroyed by a volcano, proving that property is temporary and all that was left was the spiritual. Hence, community and sacraments he saw as more important to a really Christian novel than an individual’s state of mind or a happily-ever-after ending.
Not only did Fr. Anderdon write novels, he was quite capable of delivering opinions and facts on history. He wrote several pieces on Luther, the early Catholic Church in Britain and Catholic apologetics, especially after he joined the Jesuits.
He also was a prolific spiritual writer for many periodicals of the day, writing often with a sense of irony on the various cultural, political and economic arguments which were the hot topics of the time. One of these was his uncle’s cause of social justice.
Serial publications were common then, so he wrote in Weekly Register, the English Messenger of the Sacred Heart, The Xaverian, The Month and The Irish Monthly. After his death, some of his works were used in the American Catholic Encyclopedia’s versionof “A Catholic Mother Speaks to Her Children” by the Countess de Flavigny.
erdon moved from Manchester to the Jesuit motherhouse outside of London where he died July 28, 1890. His uncle, the cardinal, outlived him by over a year. the evangelical father wrote up until his death, leaving an unfinished serial about five minute sermons and also a brand new book “The Old Religion of Taunton”.
Father William Henry Anderdon may not be a saint, yet, but his evangelizing was certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Religion and the Visual: moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2012/2012-6.pdf
Copyright 2016, Debbie McCoy